1. Comprehensive Review
Peer Review Team had been assigned to conduct the online Peer Review Visit to Aoyama Gakuin Business School (ABS) on 19 October 2021. ABEST21 had arranged the online interview session between the PRT Team and various School representatives, including Academic Unit’s Management, faculty members, staff members and students. The interview session was successfully conducted as all the important persons from the school and students’ representatives were present during the interview sessions, and there is a lot of information that the PRT managed to collect, particularly from the relevant group of the school. The evidences shared and the interaction with the various stakeholders during the online Peer Review Visit indicates that the Aoyama Gakuin Business School has made satisfactory progress on its action plans till date, and that it has implemented the majority of the key action plans in a satisfactory manner.
Generally, the School had clearly stated in the Kaizen Report as well as during the online interview session that they will maintain the current status, particularly its Mission Statement, as the changes in both internal and external environment are considered to be within their expectations. Furthermore, the School has successfully positioned itself, and implemented specific changes that are outlined below.
- Intended Learning Outcome (ILO)
One of the aspects that PRT Team noticed is the introduction of Intended Learning Outcome (ILO) in every subject. It is a good move by the School in making the programmes in line with the requirements of accreditation organizations such as AACSB and EFMD. From the faculty members’ perspective, the introduction of the ILOs is very important to review the methodology of teaching and learning, particularly in the class environment. Furthermore, having the ILOs in every subject helps the students to better understand the course structure and content, methodology of assessment, teaching and learning methods. In other words, by defining Intended Learning Outcome the School provides a more clear understanding regarding the courses or modules offered to the students. Generally, the PRT has concluded that the School has successfully achieved its objectives in introducing the Intended Learning Outcomes, with the condition that these should be closely monitored and managed by the School regularly, in every semester or every year.
- Re-organize the advisory council by increasing the number of academic and business members
The role of Advisory Council is very obvious in the context of Aoyama Gakuin Business School. The School needs to be advised by the Advisory Council in terms of the direction of the programmes and the prospects of the graduates in the industry. According to the planning, the School will increase the number of Advisory Council members from business and academia. It seems that the School wants the direction of the institution to be in line with industry expectations and to be accepted by the industry. Therefore, the initiatives taken by the School to bring more Associate Professors and Assistant Professors as well as selected people fro the industry to the Advisory Council is a good decision. In general, the School is in the process in strengthening its Advisory Council, and the PRT strongly believes that Aoyama Gakuin Business School has the potential to establish it.
- Increasing the number of Donated courses from industry (Corporate Governance, Corporate Communication)
The PRT finds that the School has implemented good initiatives to invite attention from relevant industries, particularly to obtain donations from them. Strong support and cooperation from the industry is very much required in making this arrangement work successfully. Endowed Courses/Grant-Supported Courses are another strength of the School. In order to maintain and further expand its offering of Endowed Courses/Grant-Supported Courses, the School should plan and strategize on how to obtain more support from the industry. In the online interview session during the Peer Review Visit, most of the students who took these courses said that they were very satisfied and have learned a lot from them. The School should continue to keep and enhance these endowed courses in the future.
- Changing School Semester System to fit Asia/US Calendar
The semester system of the School is currently not fit with the academic calendar of the other Asian countries or US. It will become a constraint for the students from these regions if they wish to study in Aoyama Gakuin Business School. Therefore, the School has to convince the Aoyama Gakuin University of the need to change its semester system. In addition, this action will definitely support the vision and mission of the School. In other words, changing the semester system will be able to attract more international students to the School in the future.
- Aoyama Action Learning (AAL)
Another aspect that the School has is Aoyama Action Learning (AAL). The School has various AAL initiatives to be offered to the students, and the information from the Academic Unit Management indicates that the number of students is increasing.
- Diversity of the Faculty Members
Diversity of the faculty members is another aspect that needs to be emphasized, especially if the School wants to become Global Business School. Currently, the School has a good practice in terms of inviting Faculty Members from other countries. The faculty is also diversified in terms of their industry background and experience. This issue is considered important because faculty experiences based on international perspectives as well as industrial input are very much needed in making the School to become a globally known institution.
- Training for the Academic Unit’s Staff Members
Staff members need specific training, especially for communicating in English. It is in line with the School’s direction to become globalized Business School. More exposure to international environment is also required, which will help to increase the level of confidence of the staff when they deal with any global situation.
- Students’ enrolment
Students’ enrolment, particularly the enrolment of international students should be improved, because now it is focused mostly on China and Taiwan. In order to become global Business School, the School needs diverse students, particularly from Asia, Europe, USA and other regions.
- HyFlex Class
The students prefer HyFlex Class, based on the data provided by the Dean (Professor Dr. Nakasato Munenori). According to the Dean, the application of technology that combines the use of devices with face-to-face approach makes the class more interesting and interactive. However, there are some students who prefer face-to-face class as it will make the process of teaching and learning more effective.
Some of the areas that are under progress include recruitment of international faculty, further enhancing partnerships / international exchange programs to attract more overseas students and diversify the overseas student body. Another area is increasing the number of donated courses from the regional companies. Some of these have been affected due to the ongoing pandemic, and the School’s management needs to consider alternatives / modification of plans according to the changes in the environment.
Future Action Plans (from April 2021 to March 2022) – These are in line with overall mission and vision of the School:
- To hire more faculty members for globalization.
- Changing school semester system to fit Asia/US calendar.
- Starting student exchange program with Asian Business Schools.
- Starting faculty exchange program with Asian Business Schools.
- Enrich foreign student support such as dormitory, financial support, human support.
- Introduction of new endowed courses (scheduled to be offered from 2021).
The School’s Feedback:
2. Dramatic Quality Improvement
“The School has made significant improvement in the area of introduction and implementation
The School has planned to define Intended Learning Outcome since 2019, and during that time it was established based on the Diploma Policy. The preparation of the ILOs was started in 2021, and all full-time faculty members are required to follow the new syllabus format, including grade evaluation in nine compulsory courses. As the School wants to increase the number of courses taught in English, ILOs preparation would require that the document is translated into English.
3. Matters to be noted
- The School should be more focused in highlighting the 2 tracks (Full Time and Part Time). The issue is the requirements for the programs. Specifically, it is about working experience for Part Time Track and no working experience for Full Time Track. The School should provide justification of this difference in requirements. In other words, the specifics of the two programmes in terms of outcomes or graduates should be explained. The justification for this difference is not clear.
- The School is governed by the policies and practices of the University (e.g. semester structure) and these may affect the globalization plans of the School. However, School has made specific plans, e.g. to change school semester system to fit Asia/US calendar, attracting more students from the Asian region and faculty exchange programs. These are in line with School’s vision and mission.
- While the School is focused on improving the English language skills of students and offering more courses in English, there is a need to develop the same for staff, so as to provide adequate support to international students. This aspect is considered important because staff members will communicate with the international students on various issues regarding their study in ABS.
- The School has to include more programs taught in English in order to attract more international students, particularly from Asia, US and Europe. The School needs to ensure the availability of the programmes in English, and therefore needs faculty members who are able to teach in English.
- The feedback from the faculty members needs to be collected and addressed, since the new way of teaching and learning is considered difficult for some of them who are not fully competent in technology use.
The School’s Feedback: